When your hit show ends with the main character topping himself, how do you follow up? Well, since Life On Mars took place in Sam Tyler’s mind, simply having another protag incur a brain sprain (after reading Tyler’s case notes) takes care of that snag (for more, see the Life After Mars featurette). So Keeley Hawes’ DI Alex Drake is swiftly shot in episode one, catapulting her back to 1981, toting perm, leather jacket and an obsession with pre-empting her parents’ murder.
Meanwhile, Philip Glenister’s Gene Hunt returns – a watered-down version of his 1973 self, happier to flirt than be memorably foul-mouthed. If anything, the ’80s angle is undercranked – there’s surely more scope for sniggers than is on show, each edition swamped by dour ‘topical’ plotlines (AIDS, cocaine, nuclear weapons) and dull happy-family flashbacks. At least they’ve upped the retro-ante with Atari-style menu screens.